Tuesday, April 17, 2012
An excerpt from C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves: “Likings and Loves for the Sub-human” part II
“If you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn; this is only another way of saying that nature does not teach. The tendency to take her as a teacher is obviously very easily grafted on to the experience we call “love of nature.” But it is only a graft. While we are actually subjected to them, the “moods” and “spirits” of nature point no morals. Overwhelming gaiety, insupportable grandeur, sombre desolation are flung at you. Make what you can of them, if you must make at all. The only imperative that nature utters is, “Look. Listen. Attend.”
The fact that this imperative is so often misinterpreted and sets people making theologies and pantheologies and antitheologies—all of them which can be debunked—does not really touch the central experience itself. What nature-lovers—whether they are Wordsworthians or people with “dark gods in their blood” –get from nature is an iconography, a language of images. I do not mean simply visual images; it is the “moods” or “spirits” themselves—the powerful expositions of terror, gloom, jocundity, cruelty, lust, innocence, purity—that are the images. In them each man can clothe his own belief. We must learn our theology or philosophy elsewhere (not surprisingly, we often learn them from theologians and philosophers).
But when I speak of “clothing” our belief in such images I do not mean anything like using nature for similes or metaphors in the manner of the poets. Indeed I might have said “filling” or “incarnating” rather than clothing. Many people—I am one myself—would never, but for what nature does to us, have had any content to put into the words we must use in confessing our faith. Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word “glory” a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the “fear” of God could have ever meant to me anything but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags. And if nature had never awakened certain longings in me, huge areas of what I can now mean by the “love” of God would never, so far as I can see, have existed.
Of course the fact that a Christian can so use nature is not even the beginning of a proof that Christianity is true. Those suffering from Dark Gods can equally use her (I suppose) for their creed. That is precisely the point. Nature does not teach. A true philosophy may sometimes validate an experience of nature; and experience of nature cannot validate a philosophy. Nature will not verify any theological or metaphysical proposition (or not in the manner we are now considering); she will help to show what it means.
And not, on the Christian premises, by accident. The created glory may be expected to give us hints of the uncreated; for the one is derived from the other and in some fashion reflects it.
In some fashion. But not perhaps in so direct and simple a fashion as we at first might suppose. For of course all the facts stressed by nature-lovers of the other school are facts too; there are worms in the belly as well as primroses in the wood. Try to reconcile them, or to show that they don’t really need reconciliation, and you are turning from direct experience of nature—our present subject—to metaphysics or theodicy or something of that sort. That may be a sensible thing to do; but I think it should be kept distinct from the love of nature. While we are on that level, while we are sill claiming to speak of what nature has directly “said” to us, we must stick to it. We have seen an image of glory. We must not try to find a direct path through it and beyond it to an increasing knowledge of God. The path peters out almost at once. Terrors and mysteries, the whole depth of God’s counsels and the whole tangle of the history of the universe, choke it. We can’t get through; not that way. We must make a detour—Leave the hills and woods and go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees. Otherwise the love of nature is beginning to turn into a nature religion. And then, even if it does not lead us to the Dark Gods, it will lead us to a great deal of nonsense.” (p 223-224)
C.S. Lewis "The Four Loves" in The Beloved Works of C.S. Lewis (New York, Inspirational Press, 1960)
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves”I will be posting excerpts from each part of this small but important book of C.S. Lewis. Today I am sharing from the introduction to this book the following thoughts:
“Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious. That erotic love and love of one’s country may thus attempt to “become gods” is generally recognized. But family affection may do the same. So, in a different way, may friendship. I shall not here elaborate the point, for it will meet us again and again in later chapters.
Now it must be noticed that the natural loves make this blasphemous claim not when they are in their worst, but when they are in their best, natural condition; when they are what our grandfathers called “pure” or “noble.” This is especially obvious in the erotic sphere. A faithful and genuinely self-sacrificing passion will speak to us with what seems the voice of God. Merely animal or frivolous lust will not. It will corrupt its addict in a dozen ways, but not in that way; a man may act upon such feelings but he cannot revere them any more than a man who scratches reveres the itch. A silly woman’s temporary indulgence, which is really self-indulgence, to a spoiled child- her living doll while the fit lasts- is much less likely to “become a god” than the deep, narrow devotion of a woman who (quite really) “lives for her son.” And I am inclined to think that the sort of love of a man’s country which is worked up by beer and brass bands will not lead him to do much harm (or much good) for her sake. It will probably be fully discharged by ordering another drink and joining in the chorus.
And this of course is what we ought to expect. Our loves do not make their claim to divinity until the claim becomes plausible. It does not become plausible until there is in them a real resemblance to God, to Love Himself. Let us here make no mistake. Our Gift-loves are really God-like; and among our Gift-loves those are most God-like which are most boundless and unwearied in giving. All the things the poets say about them are true. Their joy, their energy, their patience, their readiness to forgive, their desire for the good of the beloved—all this is a real and all but adorable image of the Divine life. In its presence we are right to thank God “who has given such power to men.” We may say, quite truly and in an intelligible sense, that those who love greatly are “near” to God. But of course it is “nearness by likeness.” It will not of itself produce “nearness of approach.” The likeness has been given us. It has no necessary connection with that slow and painful approach which must be our own (though by no means our unaided) task. Meanwhile, however the likeness is a splendor. That is why we may mistake Like for Same. We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred.
Our Need-loves may be greedy and exacting but they do not set up to be gods. They are not near enough (by likeness) to God to attempt that.
It follows from what has been said that we must join neither the idolaters nor the “debunkers” of human love. Idolatry both of erotic love and of “the domestic affections” was the great error of nineteenth –century literature. Browning, Kingsley, and Patmore sometimes talk as if they thought that falling in love was the same thing as sanctification; the novelists habitually oppose to “the World” not the Kingdom of heaven but the home. We live in the reaction against this. The debunkers stigmatize as slush and sentimentality a very great deal of what their father said in praise of love. They are always pulling up and exposing the grubby roots of our natural loves. But I take it we must listen neither “to the over-wise nor to the over-foolish giant.” The highest does not stand without the lowest. A plant must have roots below as well as sunlight above and roots must be grubby. Much of the grubbiness is clean dirt if only you will leave it in the garden and not keep on sprinkling it over the library table. The human loves can be glorious images of Divine love. No less than that: but also no more—proximities of likeness which in one instance may help, and in another may hinder, proximity of approach. Sometime perhaps they have not very much to do with it either way." (pp 216-217)
C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves” in The Beloved Works of C.S. Lewis (Inspirational Press, New York, 1960)
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Father in Heaven, I want to thank you for your blessings on this trip to and from Chicago:
· For Vicki in the Denver terminal, a devoted Jewish believer.
· For the amazing O’Hara traffic directors (parking) who sat with me on the train into Chicago.
· For the delightful staff/students of Moody Bible Institute
· For the ETS/EPS attendees including Myron Kauck (Liberty), Bryan O’Neal (Moody), Chris Reese (also Moody), Brandon Rickabaugh (Biola) Adam (email critique), Phil Lueck (Wheaton-ret.) Gene Green (Wheaton) and for the wonderful encouragement of Dr. Millard Erickson…Yes sir, I will keep on going!
· The delightful server at “The 3rd Coast.” (and amazing salsa verde)
· The great conversation with the woman on the train, heading to O’Hare…lots of fun! (Yes, come out and we’ll go to Dazzle Jazz)
· Pam, a new Denver friend who I had a wonderful conversation at O’Hare waiting for our flight.
· For getting my bag to me on time to catch the right bus back to Boulder.
· For my friend picking me up from the bus station.
· For rest on the Sabbath.
· And for rain and snow tomorrow which we need out here.
· For the angelic host that surrounded and guarded me everywhere I went.
And for every single person who prayed for me…wow, those prayers were amazingly answered!
Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God now and forever, Amen.